The Only Way Through

Let's begin with a fundamental truth. 

No one escapes the discomfort of uncertainty. That's the truth. The wisest course of action is slow down and lean towards it, peer into it's depths and soften your whole body. To welcome the waves of emotion as they crash on the shores of your being. The quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through.

New beginnings are uncomfortable.

Knotted together with the wonder and consciousness-expanding experience is the inevitable discomfort. The death of something old and outdated. Uncertainty abounds. In the middle of transformation, we live in the question. And a question that always comes up for me, "How do I get away from this discomfort, this not-knowing?" (Usually repeated like a desperate mantra at one point or another.)

Humans are tender beings. 

The tendency is to protect, to create distance, when we are in the middle of change -- be it internal or external. I'm struck by knowing that there is no solid ground. We are always in a state of uncertainty, but there are large swaths of life that FEEL certain most of the time. 

And when the discomfort of change sets in, we all have ways of distancing ourselves.

Rightfully so -- we are tender beings. We have endless means to distract and numb in today's world. Some people whistle in the dark and want to stay endlessly upbeat. Others numb up in ways that are relatively benign to wildly destructive: eating all the ice cream to shooting up with heroine and everything in between. Some people try to control everyone and everything in an attempt to make things comfortable again. 

I used to drink it away, many years ago. Then I tried to transcend the human experience through becoming enlightened (so funny, right?). Now? Now I tend to vacillate between welcoming the full spectrum of experience and compulsively seeking clarity before I hunker down with cupcakes to create some space between myself and the uncertainty.  We all have our ways to soften the edges where our capacity for upheaval dwindles.

But time and again, more quickly I circle back to the pulse of my desire -- the desire behind all others that drives and inspires me moment to moment. 

I want to live with my heart wide open. 

The full catastrophe is what I want. Adventure, truth, joy, connection, love, beauty and authenticity and all the heartbreak and failure it takes to get there. This has been growing in me since I stopped drinking 14 years ago, the seed of this desire was likely the root of my sobriety. Now I want what life offers, I long to know the world and to let it change me, but I still fight against my conditioning. My desire for safety and my fear of being hurt. 

Honestly, if it were all bad and I knew I was going to be suffering in the next act, it might be easier -- pain and suffering are celebrated, respected and revered and I'm a skilled navigator in those choppy waters. However, learning to open myself just as fully to joy and beauty and love challenges me and teaches me in a way that suffering has not.  

I am committed. I stay the course with compassion for my failings and keep opening, nudging my edges, expanding my heart's capacity for contentment, if not joy, in any and all circumstances. I'm so much closer to trusting life and trusting myself to be okay with not only the choices I make, but what's offered to me.

And with this growing trust? I don't need to know anything else because the journey is going to show me what I need to know.

What is life bringing you?   

When you are in the middle of change, wanted or unwanted, no one can make your choices for you. No one knows you, and your circumstances, better than you. It's wise to be fierce in your commitment to know your own heart. 

Others can walk with you, hold you hand and light your path -- perhaps even offer you glimmers of inspiration as to how you wish to ride the waves of change.  I offer you these aspirations for your journey: may you find yourself inspired to slow down and to lean in. May you have the courage to peer into the depths and soften your whole body in a gesture of welcoming. May you savor the path and know that the quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through. May you trust that the journey will show you exactly what you need to open your heart, moment to sacred moment. 


Beginning with a Heart Wide Open

4:30 am. Darkness. 

I wake up with questions. Questions I know will become prayers that pave the path of my journey. The quality of the questions, I know now, determines so much of the experience. 

I've struggled with new beginnings. 

Do I need to recite every catalyst, big and small, like it's own form of prayer, rubbing the mala beads smooth as I mutter under my breath? Is it necessary to mark the countless ways life has held out her hand and asked me to dance and I've either abandoned myself to the dance floor or (most often) I've pulled back, clinging to the wall -- desperately wishing for a song I know by heart.

Change is the most constant companion I've known, outside of the skin I live in. I haven't been a gracious companion to change, as I mentioned. I've wanted solid ground, asked for life to stay fixed in one spot -- you know the one. That one day where your jeans fit perfectly, everyone you care about loves you, your business is prosperous and meaningful, your energy is up, the weather is just the way you like it, your children are at 'that magical age' and you and your beloved are at your unmessy best with each other. And, of course, your hair is perfect.

Hold it. That's it. Just the way I want it. 

I have such compassion for this desire to arrange life just so. It reminds me of the way my daughter and her friends used to set up the Playmobil sets and beg and plead, "Please can we leave it set up? It's perfect just the way it is!" Inevitably a little brother or an animal or parental impatience with small plastic figurines would intervene and the perfectly arranged scene would go back in the box, in a jumble, while my daughter would wail in protest. 

This urge is adorable and confounding.

"Honey, you can set it up again.... why don't you PLAY with it?" and her perfect response, "It won't be the same, " and, "I don't want to mess it up!" I would cluck and nod (I know it's hard honey) and then assure her it would be just as good next time as I scooped her up and kissed her tear-stained cheeks. 

I was staring in a small, curly-haired, olive-complected mirror and I barely saw the reflection in that moment, but hindsight is so clear, isn't it? Moving my fingers over the beads, I've completed my prayers honoring the past. Heart open, the hand of change catches mine, again and again as I look to the future. 

New beginnings start in darkness

Birth of babies, birth of plants, animals, birth of new projects, ideas, lives, communities, eco-systems and nations. From the personal to the collective, beginnings have their roots in darkness. I am in awe of how a seed, frozen into the cold winter earth, surrounded by dark soil, follows instinct and (as a human I imagine) faith, to sprout and shoot in the right direction -- toward the sun, toward warmth, toward life above ground. Toward fruition. 

We, as humans, we have that same instinct to move in the right direction, toward the growth that is ours to live into -- whether we choose the circumstance or whether it's chosen us. The more deliberately we honor this instinct, the more enlivened and joyful life can be, no matter what change offers us.  

I'm in the thick of darkness right now, the first light of the sun at the horizon -- that liminal space where change and growth and new life is stirring - within me, in our life and in the world. It feels delicious. Anticipatory, despite the challenges that we will most certainly face. Today, like the seed, I say yes because I embrace change and my instinct is to grow. 

My prayer is just beginning to take shape

I ask to listen. May my questions lead me toward living fully.
I ask for presence. May I live with my heart and mind wide open. 
I ask for adventure. May I be changed by my experience and be a force for good.
I ask to be a blessing. May I offer grace to those I meet along the way.

I ask for authenticity. May I listen to my own heart and speak wisely.
I ask to connect. May I attune to the heartbeat of Zambia and her people.
I ask for courage. May I walk in beauty and truth and wonder.
I ask to feel roots. May I feel the first threads of belonging and honor them accordingly.

These are my questions, my prayers, spoken into the future on behalf of what has begun. Your questions, too, become the prayers that pave the path of your journey. The quality of the questions will shape and mold so much of the experience. What will your prayer for new beginnings be?


Hold the Vision

At two points in my life, I stopped drinking: first, when I was 18, sickened by my decisions and the hold that alcohol had on me. By ultimatum, I attended Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed sober for five years. My motivation was escaping the destructiveness I experienced in myself: the poor choices, the darkness, the desire to be numb. 

Sometimes, resisting something is enough. Certainly, it was enough to keep me sober for 5 years.

However, the second time I got sober I was again sickened by my decisions and the mess my life had become. But this time, I wanted something better. My motive wasn't to escape myself, but to become the person I knew myself to be. I didn't know what, exactly, that would look like, but I knew it existed, I knew in my heart I was better than my behavior. 

The ease with which I was able to stop drinking the second time taught me a valuable lesson: moving toward a vision is far more potent than fighting against what you don't like. 

The courage to see beyond the chaos

My sense is that we are standing at an opening-- in my mind's eye, it looks like a large cave with an opening to the light. Between you and I and that opening stands a dying system of power. What that means to me (and what it looks like) are people and structures making decisions that are creating chaos as they try and roll us back into an old way of being. 

This, and their ideas, are old news. Obviously. Look at the response of people around the world -- the strength of our conviction that black lives matter, that the environment matters, that women are sovereign beings who are in charge of their own bodies and their own voices, that immigrants are vital to our economy and welcome here, that separation of religion and state is desirable and necessary and let's not forget that the truth matters. The truth and actual facts matter very much to a majority of people. 


What you are seeing are ghosts -- they appear real, they appear solid but they are not. The reason they appear to have any power is the fear and anger and accusation that many of us are sending their way by buying into the chaos, and reacting to their unbelievably hateful and destructive actions. In my mind's eye, it appears that the more attention the old structure receives through fear and anger and disbelief, the more real it appears. 

It's so difficult to see what is happening, to acknowledge it and not react in a way that gives the ghosts more energy and power. However, when we react in kind with anger, disdain and us vs. them language and energy, we perpetuate the same dynamics over and over. 

I, for one, am ready for something different. Are you?

The power of using tension for change

To have an intention is to be in tension -- to want one thing and to not be there....yet. To even know that you are in tension, you must have a vision for where you want to be. This is a most powerful and potent act. I believe that what is happening can clarify your vision: what do you see beyond the ghosts? What world do you believe exists beyond the opening where they stand guard?

And beyond the wall of ghosts? Beyond, I see light. I see equity, justice and Truth. I see respect for all beings and a world community working in partnership with the earth instead of against ourselves by trying to extract every single "valuable" particle from our beautiful planet. 

We have a choice in every moment that something hateful and horrible happens - to rail against it in anger, giving the ghosts more power or, we can see what's happening, acknowledge that this is an old story that very few people believe in and allow it to break our hearts open and clarify our vision. This in turn will strengthen our action on behalf of the world we wish to create beyond the opening. 

If you and I can hold the vision for the just and equitable and safe world that is possible for all; then the old paradigm and it's limited remaining power will, in time, dissolve. Like water against stone -- the water does not see the stone and become angry that the stone stands in her path -- the water flows around the stone and eventually dissolves any resistance as she continues to flow to her final destination.

Hold the Vision

What kind of world do you wish to live in? Hold the vision for that world, and move into action - the action that is meaningful for you. 

Stay rooted in the center of your heart -- now is the time to nurture your connections and your community. Commit to your work in the world with increased passion. Dance and sing and cry. Eat well, travel, delight in the world, and honor the earth. Make love to your life. As I watch us live fully, holding the vision and acting with the strength of our convictions, I see power and energy draining away from the ghosts, freeing up the opening. Your lived joy and commitment to the vision you hold weakens them and strengthens you - strengthens us all, which will help move us into the world we wish to create beyond the ghosts. 

It is in holding the vision with fierce love for the planet and for all beings on this planet, that our power becomes like the ocean - an unstoppable force for change.

Finally, let us be like water.

Flow around the obstacles and see beyond what is before you. Trust that in the power of flow, the seemingly immovable object is dissolved and becomes part of the water itself. We will move through the opening to a new world. 

Whatever part you are playing, I honor you. Thank you to the reporters and truth tellers, thank you to the analysts, thank you to the warriors. Thank you to those coaching and working with the traumatized. Thank you to the immigration lawyers and those who are standing tall for civil rights. Thank you to the water protectors and those who link arms between the bulldozers and the land. Thank you to those who are donating money and quietly making calls. Thank you to those of you who are drumming and dancing and calling your neighbors together to share a meal. I honor you. I thank you. 

I believe in you. I believe in us. No matter how long it takes. 

And I believe we can hold the vision and move over the threshold, together.